Think herbs are just for flavor? Think again. They are what I like to call “booster foods,” as they pack a nutritional punch with each tablespoon. If you can add one or more herb varieties to your culinary repertoire, you will not only have a more interesting menu, but one that will do your body good, too.

Basil: high in vitamin K, which is essential for production of clotting factors in the blood and plays a vital role in the strengthening of bones. A member of the mint family, basil also helps with digestion, circulation and headaches.

Uses: Mediterranean dishes, especially pasta and pesto. Add toward the end of cooking or it becomes bitter. A nice addition to watermelon and feta salad, too.

Cilantro: contains beneficial phtyochemicals that act as a natural antibiotic. Cilantro also helps with anti-anxiety and lowering cholesterol. It’s a great detoxifier for the liver and can help improve digestion of fats.

Uses: guacamole, of course, plus omelets with red pepper cheese or cucumber salad with cumin.

Mint: soothes the digestive tract and contains an antioxidant that fights allergens such as asthma.

Uses: great in smoothies or desserts with cacao, also a nice accompaniment to lamb.

Parsley: parsley is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s super high in vitamin C, which helps build the immune system, plus a great source of calcium, iron and potassium. It is also good for the prevention of cancer, allergies (especially asthma) and heart disease.

Uses: add chopped parsley to salads, pasta and rice dishes, soups and stews. Also a nice addition to butter for grilled fish and meats.

Rosemary: a piney herb that pairs well with roasted meats, vegetables and soups. Known to help reduce inflammation, rosemary also stimulates the immune system, increases circulation and improves digestion. Another bonus is that it increases blood flow to the brain, thereby helping our memory (more rosemary, please!)

Uses: Add a tablespoon to a pound of grass-fed beef before grilling your burgers. Also nice in lamb and potato dishes.

Sage: known for its aromatic and tasty influence on stuffing, sage is also a great addition to chicken and pork any time of year. It acts as an antiseptic for sore throats and is also another digestive aid.

Uses: Stuff chicken with chopped sage and shredded Parmesan cheese, or make a simple syrup with blackberries and serve over ice cream

Thyme: great with poultry and rice dishes, thyme is a member of the mint family. It’s high in antioxidants and is antibacterial and anti-fungal. It also has a calming influence on those with ADD.

Uses: especially good in soups and stews and can also add an earthy component to marinades and grilling sauces.

‘Tis the season for barbecue! And while there’s no shortage of sauces on the market, many of them are made with high-fructose corn syrup or just too much sugar. Make it from scratch and you can manage your own level of sugar, salt, smoke and spice.

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Makes 2½ cups

2 cups organic ketchup

1/2 cup brown sugar (I love to use the Smoked Olive ‘Whisky’ brown.)

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1/2 cup raw apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. thyme

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Put all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.

Store in a mason jar or airtight container in refrigerator. Will last up to three weeks.

Karen Schuppert’s garden sees little sun but herbs love it there. For more recipes using parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme, go to KarenSchuppert.com.

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